Saturday Quiz – November 1, 2014

Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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    Friday lay day – music while you work

    Its my Friday lay day blog – a short blog today about music at work. Building on yesterday’s blog – Self-imposed corporate regulations control workers but choke productivity – which told the story of an increasing imposition of productivity choking workplace rules and procedures that capitalists use to control their workers. A classic manifestation of these workplace changes has been the increased use of open-plan offices (abandoning private offices) and so-called hot desking. This is a very alienating environment for workers and research has shown that if workers have access to music while they work that they choose, they get through the day in better shape. Cue the turntable! Pablo Moses on. Start typing.
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      Self-imposed corporate regulations control workers but choke productivity

      Two new industries have emerged in this neo-liberal era. The first is what I call the ‘unemployment’ industry, which operates to case manage the unemployed that poorly crafted fiscal policy has deliberately created and entrenched into our modern societies. A whole parasitic array of private providers get paid by the government to coerce and threaten the unemployed under the guise of retraining them for jobs. I wrote about this scandal in this blog – Why we should close the ‘unemployment industry’. In the last few days, a new industry has been identified which employs over a million people in Australia, making it one of the largest sectors, although no official data is published on it. This sector has been labelled in the press this week – the ‘red tape’ industry or the ‘compliance sector’. It is growing faster than any other industry in Australia and probably elsewhere, although there is no data available that can tell us that. It is largely unproductive because it undermines the productivity of other workers. Red tape, compliance, must be the public sector once again imposing its heavy hand on private endeavour, right? Wrong, the neo-liberals not only created and expanded a moribund and dysfunctional financial sector but has also created the red tape industry as it seeks to control workers down to the smallest degree. Hilarious really if it wasn’t so wasteful and hypocritical.
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        Posted in Economics | 11 Comments

        The case of the financial commentator who turned into a banana

        Today, I am writing about the mysterious case of the financial commentator who turned into a banana. It happened around 4.5 years ago and has left a disturbing trail of comedic predictions. The person in question still looks a little like he used to although he has clearly become a piece of fruit. Anyway, some further analysis will help us track down the culprit. In simple terms, the perpetrator is that familiar neo-liberal groupthink that we know so well. The commentator was so imbued with it that he turned into a banana. Read on, it is a terrifying tale.
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          Posted in Economics, Eurozone, US economy | 9 Comments

          Eurozone households still highly vulnerable to bankruptcy

          The ECB recently released a Working Paper – Financial Fragilty of Euro Area Households – which attempts “to identify distressed households by taking account of both the solvency and the liquidity situation of an individual household”. The paper uses survey data based on a sample of 51,000 households in 14 Euro nations. Taken at face value, the research provides some interesting and, perhaps, unexpected outcomes with respect to where the vulnerability lies. On the back of further damaging news about the economic prospects for Germany, the ECB research should, but won’t, motivate a major shift in German government policy towards stimulus. But then the head of the Bundesbank claims that stimulus is not required because Germany is travelling at normal capacity. The data would suggest otherwise and the ECB research would suggest that Germany is very vulnerable to a further recession.
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            Posted in Central banking, Eurozone | 5 Comments

            Eurozone battle lines being drawn again with Germany on the other side

            The battlelines between the European Commission and France and Italy over the – Corrective arm – of the Stability and Growth Pact are firming up after the Italian Government publicly released a ‘strictly confidential’ letter from the Vice President of the European Commission – La lettera della Commissione Europea all’Italia – on the Home Page of the Ministry of Economy and Finance late last week. The European Commission expressed hostility towards the Italian government hinting that there was a lack of trust involved. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that the Commission wants to keep its dirty work away from the public eye because it knows that deliberately creating unemployment and poverty is not exactly an endorsement for its common currency model. But this little skirmish last week between the technocrats and the Italian government is just part of a war that is to come over the implementation of the Excessive Deficit Procedure in both France and soon, Italy. We have been here before – 2002-03 – but this time, Germany was in the trenches with France. Now it is playing the role of the enforcer. It all goes to show however, if we ever needed reminding what a sorry, failed enterprise the Eurozone actually is.
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              Saturday Quiz – October 25, 2014 – answers and discussion

              Here are the answers with discussion for yesterday’s quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                Saturday Quiz – October 25, 2014

                Welcome to the Billy Blog Saturday Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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                  Friday lay day – Give them a job and a surfboard

                  The weeks go by quickly when you have fun and its my Friday lay day blog again, which brings some relief because I don’t feel quite as squeezed for time. Denmark seems to know a thing or two that other governments do not. They clearly stood their ground after the population failed to ratify the Maastricht Treaty and forced the European Council to create a special appendix exempting the nation from having to adopt the euro as their currency. Staying out of the Eurozone was very wise. This week, we learned that unlike other governments such as the Australian government, which is legislating to jail any citizen who goes to fight for various Muslim fighting units in and around Syria, Denmark’s approach is to offer them a job to restore their sense of hope in the Danish society and avoid a sense of alienation and social exclusion.
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                    Posted in Friday | 12 Comments

                    Still sinning … a German economist who cannot face facts

                    German economist Hans-Werner Sinn, who has been implacably opposed to the Eurozone bailouts and so-called debt mutualisation is at it again with an article in the UK Guardian yesterday (October 22, 2014) – Europe can learn from the US and make each state liable for its own debt – calling for Eurozone states to be forced to take responsibility for their own public debt and became bankrupt if that responsibility leads private creditors to cease providing funds to these states. Like all these vehement (and often German) perspectives on the Eurozone crisis, his solution based on a comparison with the federal arrangements in the US, leaves out the crucial element that renders the comparison invalid – the lack of a federal fiscal function in the Eurozone (compared to the US). Further, his solution would have led to the Eurozone breaking up in 2010 had it been implemented at that time. It’s what happens when one is blinkered by an ideology that does not permit evidence and experience to modify its more extreme dimensions.
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                      Posted in Eurozone, US economy | 11 Comments